At First UMC, we are Christians who are proud to be part of the United Methodist Church. While the United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in America, we have churches all over the world. We speak many different languages, live in many different countries with many different cultures, national histories and understandings of Christian faith and practice. However, several things unite us as a community of faith.
First, we are united in our affirmation of the historic doctrines of the Christian faith as contained in the creeds and confessions of the early church. For example, we believe that God created the world, that human beings turned away in sin, and that God sent Jesus to save us through his life, death, and resurrection ( see The Apostle's Creed).
Second, we are united as Protestants. This means that we uphold three central teachings of the Protestant Reformation. (1) We are saved only by the gift of divine grace. While good works are the natural fruit of a loving relationship with God, human beings do not earn salvation. God saves us because God loves us. (2) Scripture, as prayerfully interpreted by the worshiping community with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the primary authority on issues of Christian faith and practice. (3) We have direct and personal access to God through Jesus Christ, so there is no need for a human high-priest to mediate salvation. Christ is our high priest, and all those who enter into a loving relationship with God through Christ are, by virtue of their baptism, ministers of Jesus Christ. Clergy in the United Methodist Church claim no special status with God unavailable to the laity. Rather, we are called, gifted, and trained to lead the church by empowering all God’s people to serve the mission of Jesus according to their natural abilities, spiritual gifts, and passions.
Third, we are united as mainline Christians. While centered in Christ and grounded in scripture, we are not fundamentalist. Although we believe that the Bible is inspired by God and the primary authority in Christian faith and practice, we are not biblical literalists who claim that it is infallible in every respect. While the Bible gives true testimony to God’s creative and redemptive work in this world, it does so in a way that is reflective of the historical-cultural context of the authors. The Holy Spirit works in and through this inspired, human testimony to communicate the character, will, and salvation of God, all of which must be faithfully interpreted and applied in contemporary life. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the community of faith discerns the will of God by interpreting scripture in light of tradition, reason, and experience. Consequently, we value human intellect and all of the discoveries of the modern sciences. We cultivate passionate faith with strong convictions, but we also recognize that human life is complex and that we do not possess all the answers to every conceivable question. Rather than developing a comprehensive list of doctrines and rules that are enforced by threat of exclusion, we try to cultivate safe and compassionate environments in which people can deeply engage scripture, ask questions, and wrestle with difficult issues.
Furthermore, we teach that the goal of Christian life cannot be attained in a single decision in which we give intellectual assent to a set of theological propositions. Rather, life in Christ is characterized by an ongoing loving relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through this ongoing relationship that we are progressively set free from slavery to sin, healed of spiritual and emotional wounds, and empowered to become the people God has created us to be. Being a Christian is a life-long journey of following Jesus and loving others.
Fourth, we are united by the belief that God transforms our lives to be agents of positive change in the world. We are called to be servants of Christian love, mercy, and compassion to all people—regardless of race, gender, socio-economic class, religion, or any other category that would threaten to divide us. We see all people as children of God and seek to share with others the unconditional love that God so generously shares with us. This is reflected in the fact that for over two-hundred years the United Methodist Church and its predecessors have worked to help the poor, sick, orphaned, aging, disabled, oppressed, and imprisoned. We advocate for racial reconciliation, equality for all people, and peace and justice in a violent world. In all of this, we acknowledge that hypocrisy and judgmentalism are two of the most sinful attitudes of the church, but at FUMCCB we are committed to being authentic, inclusive, and compassionate.
If you are interested in learning more about being a Christian, we hope you will join us this weekend. You will meet caring people and find safe places to explore, learn, and grow. To learn more about the United Methodist Church, visit our denominational website: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe.
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